Sunday, April 10, 2011

UK journalist Hannah Pool discovers her origins in Eritrea for the first time

Hannah Pool, the cosmopolitan journalist from London, talks about her personal journey in one of the TEDxEuston sessions.

Born in Eritrea, growing up in Sudan and Norway - she arrived Manchester as a black girl speaking Norwegian. But the many countries Hannah had lived did little to prepare her for her big journey of discovery of Eritrea to re-discover herself and her life, as she admits, has never been the same.

Hannah Pool is, in her own words, British-Eritrean, Eritrean-British. She was born in Eritrea in 1974 and was adopted at the age of six months by a British scholar who lived and worked in the Sudan. She was raised in Manchester, England, believing that both her parents had died shortly after her birth.

She now lives in London where she worked as a columnist for The Guardian. At the age of nineteen, she received a letter from her brother informing her that her father was alive and she had a sister and several brothers who lived in Eritrea.

It took ten years for her to make the decision to meet with her birth family. She then embarked on a journey which took her back to her origins and which she recounts in her book titled My Fathers’ Daughter (Hamish Hamilton, 2005.)

In an interesting interview Hannah Pool talks about some her experiences with Tsigye Hailemichael.

Q: Were there many challenges growing up black in a white community?
H.P: Yes, very much so. There was a lot of racism. When you are a kid, people call you names. They shout at you: “famine victim” or make monkey noises when you go by. Then when I was older, I also experienced what it felt like for people not wanting to be friends with you because you are black.

Q: How did you react then?
H.P: Most black kids could understand me, but if you lived in a white family, then you would feel isolated. You did not have anyone to talk with. But also, in my case, even black children could be mean because I was like a white person: I spoke like a white person. You would feel very isolated. Basically you are on your own.

Q: How did you go about it when you wanted to trace your family back?

H.P: I spent lots of time not wanting to trace my family back. It is a very emotional issue but also it is very difficult. One takes great risks when taking the decision to trace one’s family back. One should be very careful and very thoughtful before taking any decisions. It is like opening a can of worms. Once it is open you don’t know what is going to happen. Also you are afraid. You are afraid of being rejected by both families. You are afraid your adoptive family feels resentful towards you. In fact, I felt as if I was betraying them. And my birth family, I was just afraid they would reject me and I would find myself isolated again.

Read the whole interview at


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